Shanghai’s perpetual lockdown is only getting worse

A resident in Shanghai looks out through a barrier during a covid lockdown.
A resident in Shanghai looks out through a barrier during a covid lockdown.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
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Shanghai’s lockdown shows no signs of lifting. In fact, six weeks in, it is getting even harsher.

The city imposed a two-part citywide lockdown on March 28 that was supposed to lift on April 5. Instead it has dragged on, with no clear end in sight. Some residents have been under lockdown for more than 50 days, since mid-March.

In recent weeks, physical barricades appeared around buildings and on city streets in covid-affected areas, making it harder for food deliveries to get through. This week, private food delivery will stop as residents will be forced to rely on government deliveries only, according to notices shared by Shanghai residents on Twitter.

Meanwhile, residents who live above and below a floor where a person tested positive are being forced to relocate to quarantine centers. On social media, people shared videos of covid workers, known as “big whites” for their protective suits, pulling people from apartment buildings. A Chinese law professor questioned the legality of forcibly relocating people from their homes to quarantine centers when an official emergency order isn’t in place, but his post was quickly censored. In one video, according to Reuters, a covid worker who is telling residents that they needed to be quarantined, says at one point, “Stop asking me why. There is no why.”

The new restrictions aren’t a response to spike in cases. In fact, cases have been dropping steadily during the strict lockdown, to fewer than 4,000 on Sunday, down from a peak of nearly 28,000 cases on April 13. The measures appear to be a part of a push to get parts of the city finally down to zero community transmission, excluding more strictly sealed-off pockets with higher cases.

China’s covid economic woes deepen

The toll of the lockdown wasn’t fully captured in first-quarter GDP numbers. Today, data for April showed China’s exports grew only 3.9% from a year earlier, compared with 14.7% in March, though this likely also reflects reduced demand due to inflation (pdf).

In Shanghai, the lockdown is taking its toll on the economy. One survey of 1,000 Shanghai-based entrepreneurs of small and medium businesses between late April and early May shows that almost 90% of the respondents said they had lost interest in continuing to run a business in the city, according to findings from CEI Company Study, an institution that says it advocates for private firms in China.

On Saturday, premier Li Keqiang warned that employment in the country faces a “complex and grave” situation.